Four principal papers and a total of 43 peer commentaries on the evolutionary origins of morality. To what extent is human morality the outcome of a continuous development from motives, emotions and social behaviour found in nonhuman animals? Jerome Kagan, Hans Kummer, Peter Railton and others discuss the first principal paper by primatologists Jessica Flack and Frans de Waal. The second paper, by cultural anthropologist Christopher Boehm, synthesizes social science and biological evidence to support his theory of how our hominid (...) ancestors became moral. In the third paper philosopher Elliott Sober and evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson argue that an evolutionary understanding of human nature allows sacrifice for others and ultimate desires for another's good. Finally Brian Skyrms argues that game theory based on adaptive dynamics must join the social scientist's use of rational choice and classical game theory to explain cooperation. (shrink)
Pleasure, in the inclusive usages most important in moral psychology, ethical theory, and the studies of mind, includes all joy and gladness — all our feeling good, or happy. It is often contrasted with similarly inclusive pain, or suffering, which is similarly thought of as including all our feeling bad. Contemporary psychology similarly distinguishes between positive affect and negative affect.[1..
I develop and defend a hedonistic view of the constitution of human subjectivity, agency and value, while disassociating it from utilitarian accounts of morality and from the view that only pleasure is desired. Chapter One motivates the general question, "What really is of value in human living?", and introduces evaluative hedonism as an answer to this question. Chapter Two argues against preference satisfaction accounts of pleasure and of welfare, and begins the explication and defense of the hedonist's conception of pleasure (...) as immediate experiencing liked for its own sake in its experiential moment, and which obtains or not in an experiential moment regardless of what obtains at other times. Chapter Three begins the task of finding a motivational theory that will support, or at least cohere with, evaluative hedonism. I here work toward my own position by discussing, criticizing and distinguishing some aspects of the views of earlier hedonistic writers, both ancient and modern. Chapter Four further explains the hedonist's conception of pleasure, and treats some contextualist objections to its tenability suggested by Plato, Moore and Anscombe. In the course of answering these objections, the view of consciousness belonging to the hedonist's view of mind is contrasted with that which the objections presuppose. Chapter Five first outlines the general kind of hedonistic view resulting from the work of the earlier sections, and then develops a specific view of this kind, drawing on contemporary work in philosophy, psychology and psychobiology. The result is an account of action, and of the kind of attention and consciousness connected with it, in which pleasure has a central organizing role. Such an account, if sustained and filled out by ongoing scientific work, would further motivate, and cohere with, evaluative hedonism and the related contention that the dimension of subjectivity in which human value consists is in the lives of human beings and other higher vertebrates much the same. (shrink)
Depue & Morrone-Strupinsky's (D&M-S's) language suggests that, unlike Kent Berridge, they may allow that the activity of a largely subcortical system, which is presumably often introspectively and cognitively inaccessible, constitutes affectively felt experience even when so. Such experience would then be phenomenally conscious without being reflexively conscious or cognitively access-conscious, to use distinctions formulated by the philosopher Ned Block.
One can share Block's aim of distinguishing “phenomenal” experience from cognitive function and agree with much in his views, yet hold that the inclusion of representational content within phenomenal content, if only in certain spatial cases, obscures this distinction. It may also exclude some modular theories, although it is interestingly suggestive of what may be the limits of the phenomenal penetration of the representational mind.
Human emotional experience is organized at multiple levels, only some of which are easily penetrable by or dependent on language. Affects connected with mammalian parental care seem involved in Anna Wierzbicka's example of the experience of Jesus in Gethsemane. However, such affects are not characterizable as she requires, using only NSM's short list of linguistic semantic universals. Following her methodology, even using an enriched NSM really exhaustive of linguistic semantic universals, may involve serious losses of cognitive opportunity. Specifically, it forecloses (...) any possibility of linking language with other cognitive resources to construct novel concepts, as may be needed to understand the deep biologically-based structure of emotion—which, after all, goes far deeper in us than language does. (shrink)
Rolls's preliminary definitions of emotion and speculative restriction of consciousness, including emotional sentience, to humans, display behaviorist prejudice. Reinforcement and causation are not by themselves sufficient conceptual resources to define either emotion or the directedness of thought and motivated action. For any adequate definition of emotion or delimitation of consciousness, new physiology, such as Rolls is contributing to, and also the resources of other fields, will be required.
Interpreting VTA dopamine activity as a facilitator of affective engagement fits Depue & Collins's agency dimension of extraverted personality and also Watson's and Tellegen's (1985) engagement dimension of state mood. Serotonin, by turning down the gain on dopaminergic affective engagement, would permit already prepotent responses or habits to prevail against the behavior-switching incentive-simulation-driven temptations of the moment facilitated by fickle VTA DA. Intelligent switching between openly responsive affective engagement and constraint by long-term plans, goals, or values presumably involves environment-sensitive balancing (...) of these neuromodulators, such as socially dominant primates may show. (shrink)
Editorial Introduction to ‘Evolutionary Origins of Morality: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives’. The four principal papers presented here, with interdisciplinary commentary discussion and their authors’ responses, represent contemporary approaches to an evolutionary understanding of morality -- of the origins from which, and the paths by which, aspects or components of human morality evolved and converged. Their authors come out of no single discipline or school, but represent rather a convergence of largely independent work in primate ethology, anthropology, evolutionary biology, and dynamic systems modelling (...) on related problems, conjectures and tentative conclusions. In inviting contributions I deliberately made no attempt to define morality more sharply than common language and understanding have left it, including our ordinary responses to right and wrong, but not all of the very diverse thinking about this and other practical concerns -- and about what we should make of all these -- that ethics encompasses. This was not because of any lack of past definitions of morality, but because the history of controversy over these makes it advisable not to prejudge the question pending our inquiry's results. From these we may see some outlines of plausible answers begin to emerge, only a brief sketch of some of which I can attempt here, sampling the hypotheses, scientific support, critical discussion of this, and refinement of positions in authors’ responses. (shrink)